Monday, October 20, 2008

2008 Nationals: A Day of Duets

Friday was very exciting for me. I had the luxury of remaining dry all day. At least until the team practice that night. But until then, I got to be a spectator. Sort of. I've already taken my test to become a level 1 judge, but I wanted a bit of experience judging actual routines. Between Candy, Karen and Laurette I've gotten a really good idea how easy it's not.

But back to the swimmers.

This time we started in the 70s. There were six pairs competing. Our own Penny and Lizzi were up 5th.

They did a wonderful job. They had over a two point lead on the next closest competitor after the tech routine.

Next up were the 20s.

Jenni and Kim swam 5th.

They ended up in 5th place with a 68.834.

In the 30s, Lindsay and Shannon swam 12th.

After the techs, they scored 77.666 for 5th place.

Then we were ready for the duet free routines.

This time Penny and Lizzi started off the competition.

They scored a 63.500 which combined with their tech scores gave them an overall score of 62.167 and secured a gold medal. Great job ladies!

Back to Kim and Jenni in the 20s. They swam 9th in their age group.

They scored an impressive 73.000 which after combining with the tech score gave them an overall score of 70.917. They tied for 2nd place. Excellent job!

In the 30s, Shannon and Lindsay swam 12th again.

They earned a more than respectable score of 76.600. After all was said and done, they had an overall score of 77.133 which was the highest of any of our team scores. Way to go ladies!

After the duets, we ended up in a bit of a scramble. The teams were all scheduled to run through their routines that night with music. However, the competition went a bit long and many of the competitors had tickets to see La Reve that evening. The powers that be allowed teams who had people with tickets to swim first during the practice.

It was getting a bit chilly so the teams were eager to get through the practice for more than one reason. Afterward, we had a nice little dinner, then put on the videos of the team practice. I need to get a copy of ours. Not because we were incredible or anything. But because Ymajahi is a complete nut. You can see her dancing along to our music in the shallow end. It was hysterical! A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2008 Nationals: Night One

Now that the milk thing had my eyes feeling better, I was more up to going out with Catherine and Lilia. They were heading to the Strip where a former teammate now ran a restaurant at the MGM Grand.

Nob Hill is very fancy. Thankfully, we were in Vegas so I could get away with wearing jeans. Catherine and Lilia pulled out the dresses, though. Between the time we'd gotten ready to go and actually left, our group grew from the three of us to include Ymajahi. While waiting for her, Lindsay decided to tag along with her sister and brother in law.

Luckily Catherine had a mini van! All of us piled in and made the two mile trek to the Strip.

Nob Hill was fairly easy to find. John looked so professional in his suit and tie. He immediately seated us in an area to the side of the bar and brought out cocktails for us to try. Unfortunately, I don't drink so I didn't taste the cool looking drink in the martini glass with sugar baked around the edges. He brought me a coke instead. After a sip of her drink, Ymajahi polished off my coke because she's still breastfeeding.

We chatted for a while at that table, then he took us in the restaurant to seat us for dinner. Fabulous doesn't even begin to describe this place. Everything was soft. The chairs were comfortable and cushiony. Even the table top had a little padding.

The staff took really good care of us. I don't even think it was because we were John's friends. They seem to be that courteous of all their costumers. When one of our waiters was telling us about the specials, he mentioned some dish that was $33 an ounce and started at 3 ounces. He just smiled while all of us started cracking up.

The pot pies sounded really good and looked even better. They were actually pies brought out in a copper pot that was humongous. Another waiter gave us a peek at the lobster pot pie as he was serving it. Unfortunately, they were $93. And you don't even get to keep the pot. I know because I asked.

Finally, I decided to split a hamburger with Ymajahi. Good move since it was twenty-two bucks. While we were waiting for our orders, John kept plying us with other foods. He had three cheese fondue things brought out for us and gave us each a plate of San Francisco sourdough bread. Having never had fondue before, this was a pretty neat experience. There was a skewer on the plate with the bread. You use it to dip the bread in the cheese. Normally, I'm not a big fan of sourdough bread, but this was really yummy.

Next came the escargot. I had to stare it down for a long minute, but I finally got up the nerve to eat it. Thankfully, the serving portion was very small. Man, those suckers are chewy. I can't ever see myself voluntarily ordering it ever again, but I'm glad I at least tried it.

When our orders came out, I must say that that was one of the best hamburgers I've ever had. And the fries? Super yummy. John also brought out more macaroni and cheese for the rest of us to try. It was delicious, too. I took the remains of it back to the timeshare and it was never seen again.

All too soon we had to call it a night. Lindsay and her sister were both swimming the next day and needed to get some rest. Catherine, Lilia and Ymajahi wanted to stay behind and gamble a bit. Catherine gave me her keys to drive the first group home with the intention of catching a cab back later. However, luck wasn't with them and they lost all their money before we even got to the garage. We picked them up at the escalators and all headed back to the timeshare after a thoroughly wonderful evening.

From left to right: Lilia, Catherine, Ymajahi, John, Lori, Lindsay and Devin.

2008 Nationals: Solos Up First

Thursday was our solo competition. After a great night's sleep at the Timeshare I got up and hitched a ride to the pool our coach, Dawn. I wanted to be there in time for the open pool at 8a and Catherine and Lilia weren't planning to come until later. The open pool time did a lot to calm my nerves. You'd think by now I'd be used to competing. Anyway, I had a lovely swim despite the fact that my swimp3 peeled my goggles off every time I went upside down.

While I was warming up, a Japanese lady joined me on the side of the pool and asked about Akiko, one of my teammates. Turns out, she and Akiko became fast friends when we competed at Stanford in 2006 and she was hoping to see her again. I assured her that Akiko would be arriving on Friday.

At last, things settled - as much as they can at a swim meet - and we were off and running. We started with four ladies in the 70s age group followed by three ladies in the 80s age group. Both Lizzi and Mariam are in the 80s this year.

Lizzi was first.

Ramapo Aquamasters went second and Mariam rounded out the age group.

Both of our ladies did a fantastic job. After the tech routine, Lizzi was in first and Mariam was in second.

Next up: the 20s!

We had three teammates competing in this age group and judging by the routines I saw, I am very thankful I'm in the 30s.

Kimberly swam 12th.

Jenni swam 18th, but her music was screwy so she got to swim the routine again after Ymajahi.

Ymajahi swam 21st.

As you can see, all three did a fantastic job. I have a little breathing room with Kim and Jenni, but Ymajahi is going to be my competition next year. I'm really not looking forward that.

After these techs, Jenni was in 1st, Ymajahi was tied for 8th and Kim was 10th. Considering how amazing their competition was, this was quite a feat.

On to the 30s!

Three of us from the Unsyncables competed in the 30s.

I swam 2nd.

I don't think you can tell from this version of the video, but I got totally lost underwater on my spin. I was trying to count walls like Karen taught me, but there were so many numbers going through my head at the time I kinda gave up. Instead, I kinda picked a direction that looked right and came up with the biggest smile ever. I was sorta correct, but once on the surface I could see where I was and fixed my angle. Overall, I really needed to travel more. I only covered half of the pool before turning around to come back.

Lilia swam 5th.

Catherine swam 7th.

After the techs, Catherine was in 3rd, I was in 4th, Lilia was in 5th.

The 40s followed us.

Sylvia swam 5th. She ended up in 4th place after the techs.

Then the 50s were up.

We only had Corby from our team in this age group, but I also had to cheer on Becky from Alpine Angelfish and Michael from Cypress. Becky joined us in Australia and kinda became and honorary Unsyncable and Michael is a Cal State Games buddy.

Corby swam 7th in the age group.

After the techs, Becky was in 1st, Michael in 6th, Corby in 9th.

This year we had no one in the 60s so our Solo Tech competition was complete.

On to the Frees!

Having never done tech and free in one day, I didn't really know what to expect with the whole gelling situation. I've only gelled twice before. Karen fixed me up in Australia and I did it in our hotel room before the Cal State Games this past July. I've never, ever done it at the pool on the fly like I did at Nationals.

Lilia and Catherine were at the gelling station working on their hair so I kinda joined them. The sun was so intense that it hurt to look in the tiny mirror on the table. I ended up missing an entire section of my hair because I couldn't see what I was doing. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) I did, however, nearly manage to gel my right eye shut. And I had what seemed to be a river of gel flowing down the left side of my face. Those sideburns weren't going anywhere!

When I went in the locker room to change suits, I put my black suit on the sink to pin in my headpiece. Of course when I picked it up it had globs of gel on it. I'd need the suit again on Saturday, but I didn't have time to panic right then. Time to get back to business.

Again, we started with the 70s. In the 80s, Lizzi went 2nd.

Mariam swam 3rd, but for some reason I didn't get the video.

With all said and done, Lizzi took the gold with a total score of 59.333. Mariam took the silver with a 54.167. Excellent job, ladies!!

Now for those 20s.

Kim swam 16th.

Ymajahi swam 19th.

Jenni swam 20th.

Thankfully, there were no more music snafus. In the end, Jenni took the bronze with a 72.083, Ymajahi took 9th with a 68.167 and Kim took 10th with a 68.083. To give you an idea of how intense this age group was, Kanako Kitao did this move where she put her foot on her head then somersaulted backwards. Twice. In a row. Let's just say she was about 11 points ahead of everyone else.

Back to the 30s.

Lilia was 1st.

I swam 6th.

Catherine swam 9th.

Since I wasn't exactly thrilled with how the tech went, I decided to just do the doggone thing. I honestly cannot remember a single moment of this routine while I was in the water. When I got out of the pool I felt like I had just worked really hard.

Then of course the coughing started. Apparently, I don't do well in extremely dry climates. The same thing happened after my solo in Tucson. Since I was kind of expecting it, I'd been drinking lots of water all day. It did help a little, but I still ended up with a coughing fit that lasted for about a 30 minutes.

But back to the scores. Catherine took 3rd place with 67.521, Lilia took 4th with 63.042, I took 5th with 62.750. Considering that Catherine was freaking out the night before trying to write her routine, she didn't do a bad job at all.

In the 40s, Sylvia swam 4th. I don't have a video because I couldn't see at the time. More on that later. She kept 4th place with a 65.688.

In the 50s, Corby swam 6th right after Becky. Michael swam 3rd.

Despite some really stiff competition, Corby took 8th with a 57.579. Go Corby, Go Corby!! Becky took 2nd (66.479) and Michael took 6th (61.021).

And that was our solo competition. Overall, we had an excellent showing. We also found a major problem with the pool. The chemicals were seriously off. I'm not an expert, so I don't know details. All I know is that periodically I couldn't open my eyes at all. I can't even describe how much they burned and watered. The sun and wind didn't help matters either. The only way I could be comfortable was to sit with my goggles on. They're dark and airtight so they kept the sun and wind from irritating my eyes further. But my eyes kept watering and would fog up the goggles. It was a no win situation.

Laurette advised that I soak them in milk. Unfortunately, I didn't have any with me at the pool. I left with Catherine and Lilia after the competition was over and we got some milk cartons with a straw and headed back to the timeshare. I had no idea how to get the milk in my eyes so I improvised. I poured it in my goggles and held them to my eyes over the kitchen sink. Don't tilt your head. The milk will leak out. Blink a few times then rinse your eyes with water.

I don't know the whys or what have yous, but my eyes were instantly better. I had this cloudy haze across my vision that went completely away after the milk treatment. For best results, do the milk treatment once you're out of the sun and wind. I had to soak them again after the team free competition and it wasn't quite as effective because we were still pool side. But once the sun went down, the milk did its job. I think from now on I will keep milk with me as part of my essential swim gear.

And there you have it. Day one of Nationals.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nationals Bound!

So here we are. In fabulous Las Vegas. The timeshare is beyond magnificent. The weather looks like it'll be cool. And I almost know my tech routine. It's not that I don't know it. It's just that there've been some changes that aren't quite second nature yet. But that's okay. As long as I don't panic I'll be okay.

But enough of that. There are some pretty interesting things to see on the drive to Vegas.
First stop...Barstow Station. I had no idea this western themed area even existed. Apparently it was a major stop for the railroad. That I can believe. We were only there for about 15 minutes and three entire trains came through.

Even the McDonald's looked pretty cool.

I liked these rail cars, but I think they're restaurant seating areas now. We didn't go inside.

Back on the highway. Almost from the moment you hit the state line, you start seeing Casinos. I haven't been this way in several years and was thoroughly surprised at how much things have been built up.

First up: Whiskey Pete's. This hotel and casino has been at the Stateline since 1977 so it doesn't qualify as "built up." Still, there's a fun legend behind the hotel. Apparently Pete owned a gas station, but barely could make ends meet. To make up the shortfall, he started selling bootleg, hence the nickname. When he died in 1933, he asked to be buried standing up with a bottle of bootleg in his hand to watch over the place. Unfortunately for him, he was accidentally dug up when they built the bridge across the I15 to connect Whiskey Pete's with Buffalo Bill's.

Buffalo Bill's boosts one of the world's tallest and fastest roller coasters. They also have a pool shaped like a buffalo.

Lots of billboards line the freeway as you get closer to the strip. Le Reve looked pretty cool:

Then there was one for New Kids on the Block.

I didn't even know they were still together. Oh well. Guess you learn something every day.

Tomorrow is the solo competition. Solo techs are in the morning. Solo Frees in the afternoon. I know we're going to do well. I swam the lazy river at the timeshare backwards. That took forever, but I feel like my muscles are nice and awake. The jacuzzi with the waterfalls was the perfect end. It was nice and hot, but not too hot so I stretched my legs. Maybe my splits will be a little flatter than usual. If so, I'm totally making the jacuzzi stretch a nightly thing!

The shower after was nice, too. My hair is already up in the ponytail and waiting to be gelled. That's tomorrow. I suppose it'll happen at the pool. I don't plan to gel before I go. I hope they have the hot water. Surely they will. It only makes sense.

Whatever happens, I'm sure it'll be fine and we'll have an absolutely lovely day at the pool.